Since Harold Wilson resigned as Labour Prime Minister voluntary in 1976, we have had three, and soon to be four leaders of this country who have been forced to throw in the towel.
Margaret Thatcher was toppled in 1990 by her own party due to problems that included the Poll Tax and Europe. Tony Blair’s Labour party had had their fill of their most effective leader after ten years in 2007, replacing him with the Iron Chancellor, Gordon Brown. David Cameron had to resign in 2016 after his ill-fated sojourn into settling the European question for a generation.
And now we have Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, promising to step down as Prime Minister because she has been unable to satisfy the thirst of Brexiteers within her own toxic party. Who are now predictably plotting to replace her.
What these leaders all have in common is that they weren’t replaced at the ballot box, but by their own party, who had become exasperated and disillusioned with them. In todays world, where politicians of every persuasion rabbit on about respecting votes at the ballot box, this accepted form of replacing an unpopular leader has now become unacceptable.
Post Brexit referendum, where sovereignty and accountability were heralded as reasons to leave the EU, the British public must have the final say on who resides in Downing Street. It isn’t good enough anymore to allow a cabal of MPs to choose who governs this country in our name.
If people want effective democracy in this country, then things have to change. The fixed-term parliamentary act has to be amended. Whilst this was a good addition to democracy here, it failed to anticipate that leaders could be jettisoned at any time by their own party. Who in turn could retain power by nominating their own leader and thus Prime Minister without recourse to the electorate.
It’s self-evident our system of government needs an overhaul. If Prime Ministers are to be accountable to voters, then they have to be voted in by the electorate. We may need to move to another system of government all together, perhaps a Presidential format, where voters know who they are getting for a fixed period. Or, simply, a tweak to the present format. Say, if a party wants to sack its leader, then a fresh election is triggered within a short period with their new leader in place.
If the electorate continually accepts that a small group of party members can decide this country’s leader, then the public will get what it deserves. And quite honestly it has, for in each case listed above, the Prime Minister has been replaced by an increasingly unpopular successor.
In the modern world, democratic accountability is essential. It’s now time for change.